A power flower in my garden.
Here’s my new blog project: I want to discuss the interpretation of a random series of famous quotations. How does a particular quote apply to my life? To yours?
Each day I’ll pick a new quote and ponder its relevancy. You’ll chime in if you feel prompted to add anything.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This quote came to me at about 6 a.m. on an ordinary Friday, surrounded by the predawn darkness. It was just a random thought that flitted through my head as I drank my morning coffee.
It originated in 1887 in a letter written to a Catholic bishop by Lord Acton, a British historian and moralist.
I admit that I study government like I study quantum mechanics: a tiny bit. Philosophically, I’m a mutt: Libertarian, Republican, Democratic, Peace and Freedom… As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed an aversion to talking about politics.
But I have no aversion to sharing my opinions on corporate America.
Last summer, the corporations that govern my credit cards started sending me letters to tell me they were raising my interest rates. Since I had specifically chosen those credit cards over other credit cards because of their lower interest rates, I was curious why they were doing this to me.
In the fine print of the notifications, they all stated, “If you do not agree to this, you may opt out. Call XYZ.” So I called to protest, “opt out,” and insist that my interest remain the same.
Well, explained the disinterested customer-service reps, I was certainly allowed to refuse the interest-rate hike, but if I did, I must cancel the card. They made this sound like it was a choice.
To my way of seeing things, if you say to me, either pay up or I’m taking away your credit card, that is called extortion.
I asked to speak to the managers on duty. I was given the same “choice.” When asked why the rates were being raised, I was given a song and dance about rising costs and interest rates. When I pointed out that interest rates were at a historic low, I was stonewalled with the phantom “rising costs and interest rates.” When they discovered that I always pay off my balance, they all said triumphantly, “Then you don’t have to worry about it.”
The fact is, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Congress passed a credit-card-reform law last May, but didn’t make it effective until this month. So credit-card issuers had carte blanche for seven months to raise all their fees and rates in anticipation of a law that now limits their ability to do so.
So what did they do? In the quest for higher revenues, they stuck it to us. They quickly exercised their absolute power to do as they wished, before the government could curtail it.
I call that corruption.
Corrupt: immoral or dishonest, especially as shown by the exploitation of a position of power or trust for personal gain.
What do you know about absolute power and corruption?